Friday, October 22, 2010

Bookshelf: Laurie Halse Anderson


Lia and Cassie are best friends, grew up across the street from each other, and at a young age swore an oath to be the skinniest girls in school. Lia chose the anorexic path, starving her body and exercising to the extreme while Cassie went the bulimic route. And it killed her. "Wintergirls" begins after Cassie's death, after Lia's already been sent to a rehab twice and yet continues to fight daily against her body's constant desire for food.
Lia's parents are divorced, her father remarried, her mother a surgeon and therefore never home. Lia lives with her brilliant, professor father, his wife Jennifer, and her little stepsister Emma. Lia lies and lies, to herself and those around her and continues to shrink while no one is looking. What torments her the most is the 33 calls that Cassie left on Lia's voicemail the night she literally puked herself to death. Because she was reaching out for help and Lia wasn't there to answer.

I hope you notice that I don't really give out five stars, but I had to here. Laurie Halse Anderson's "Wintergirls" deserves nothing less. It is such a contradiction - a beautiful story that's so very ugly. Eating disorders are very ugly diseases that aren't always visible from the outside. It's mental and physical and extremely hard to overcome. According to the National Eating Disorders Organization there are 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. that are struggling with an eating disorder. Ten million! That's a really scary statistic.

Laurie Halse Anderson has a beautiful novel here. What I loved most was the way in which she wrote "Wintergirls". It's a stream of consciousness where thoughts are stricken (but you can still see the truth) and words collide. Font change, spacing, it all takes you into Lia's head where reality and fiction comingle. It's haunting. And it's gross. I've always been easily grossed out with the body. Veins, blood, protruding bones all freak me out and make my knees ache. So watching Lia deteriorate made me feel jumpy and nauseas and her counting of calories made me think about what I was eating (it felt a little wrong to be eating while reading this material). But even with all the ugly self-hurt, blood, bones, and veins I loved it. Every word of it. And I think every girl, young and old should read it. Because if 10 million females are affected by an eating disorder then someone you know is in that number. Look around, you'll find a friend who's struggling. And maybe, if you're brave and willing to stick out your hand, you can help them.

Laurie Halse Anderson is going to be at the Brookline Public Library next Thursday (October 28th at 7pm) and I have to tell you, I am sooooo excited to hear her read. She's promoting her new book "Forge", which I have not yet read. If you can make it on Thursday I think it'll be a really interesting time. I'm hoping she gets a chance to talk about Banned Books Week (as I'm sure someone in the audience will bring it up).
Her website is here.
Anyways, have a wonderful weekend and happy reading!

1 comment

  1. I seriously hope one of my parents can bring me. I will die if I get to tell Laurie Halse Anderson to her face how much I love her.


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